(Hindi - 1996)
Starring: Ajay Devgan, Rambha, Tinnu Anand, and Albert Einstein as "The Bitter Hangman"
Is it cheap to point out that "Jung" is presented by someone or something called "DINKY"? To do so might sully the reputation of a film that is otherwise a collection of shots of Rambha's rear-end...a spectacle which is admittedly difficult to overlook. So rather than exploit the "DINKY" thing in this review I'll pretend I never mentioned it and just start over again...but I'm warning you that I'll make a very bad joke at the end of this review. "Jung" ended with a horrible joke too, so now I've warned you about TWO things you should avoid.
I'd be the first to admit that I watch Bollywood films in a more-or-less random way. Sure, there are certain actors, actresses and directors that I like more than others, and I don't shy away from buying the classics or the over-hyped big hits. But my DVD collection still has a lot to do with whim, garish cover art, and what I happened to find in the bargain bin at that time. Hunting through bargain bins has been a fruitful pursuit, even though I usually need to endure a woman flapping her hands at me in consternation and yelling "What are you looking for, Mister-Missus Whitey-With-The-Weird-Hair? These aren't Western movies! You won't find The Lord Of The Rings in there, you know!"
All of which brings me to this review, and the question I'll no doubt be asked: "Why Jung? Who gives a darn about that movie? Did you only buy it because it was CHEAP?"
Well, honestly...why NOT Jung? It covers the usual Bollywood ground: respecting your elders while still trying to do what's right, bringing justice to a greedy villain who mocks Ganesh, the eternal and unconditional love of a mother for her disfigured baby, and two people -- one good, one evil -- who look identical and happen to live in the same city. No, Jung might not be a classic. It might be sleezy and cheap and ridiculous and derivative. It might even be trash, ABSOLUTE AND TOTAL TRASH, which would explain why I found it in the bargain bin in the first place. But it's also FUN. It's got Rambha and Mithun Chakraborty in it. There's even a cross-dressing lawyer who beats people up and a climactic fight in a booby-trapped coal mine. All that's missing here are singing dwarves and somebody getting hit with an exploding pie...I'm hoping for a sequel! Hey DINKY, are you listening?
So if you haven't seen Jung, I'm not exactly recommending that you bother. But you might be surprised at the number of gems -- or at least old chicken bones and useful lumps of tinfoil -- that are scattered around in the trash bin.
Mithun plays an Honest And Strong Police Officer. He really doesn't get much of a part in "Jung" since most of the action (and the "post-disco" dancing) is done by his brother-in-law, the incomparable and somewhat mushy-nosed Ajay Devgan.
In my little Muffy-centric world -- where peacocks scream my name and Sridevi is Minister of Finance -- Ajay Devgan will ALWAYS be the guy who killed a rich kid with pigeons in the movie "Vijay Path," so I admit I have a soft spot for him and I probably always will. In "Jung" he plays Ajay, The Amazing Fighting Lawyer. India has a long tradition of Amazing Fighting Lawyers and I suspect that Ajay studied under one of the greats: Vishal! Vishal was the Amazing Fighting Lawyer in "Muqaddar Ki Sikandar," and rumour has it that he perfected the "Fist-In-The-Face Subpoena," a valuable technique of bringing bad guys into court rooms that they otherwise prefer to avoid. But while good old Vishal was smooth as ghee on a hot crocodile's back, Ajay is more like the physical embodiment of SEXY, DESTRUCTIVE FIRE. As two goons say at the beginning of the film as they nurse their lawyer-inflicted wounds, "Ajay is not a goat, but a lion!" He utilizes all the powers of the universe combined with the power of sped-up photographic tricks, which we know that goats can't do.
You want proof? He specializes in kicking people so hard that they fly into walls, though one might wonder why they tend to turn into limp cloth dummies on the way. The casual viewer of "Jung" will be unable to count the number of goons and cloth dummies that Ajay kicks into walls, but I'll say this for the movie: each fight is crazier than the last. Here's a random sampling to show how this "crazy fight" progression works:
1) After throwing a rich girl (Rambha) into the mud, Ajay is attacked by three fire trucks and an ambulance. Using the powers of the trucks against themselves (hitting them with their own hoses and ladders, basically) he wins the day. It's amazing how bad guys can get emergency response vehicles so quickly when I have to wait an average of three hours every time I need medical attention. Just one of the perks of being bad, I guess!
2) In order to freak out and disgust another group of goons, Ajay dresses in horrific drag and jumps around on stilts, maiming dozens. Didn't see that one coming, did you? Actually, he does this so they'll believe he's a vengeful wife who knows how to fight. I think. Maybe he doesn't do it for any reason at all. That's more like it.
3) Ajay is being threatened by a crowd of goons, but it's Gandhi's birthday and he promised not to kill anyone before noon. So for the first few minutes of the fight he engages in devious deflection methods, out of respect for a dead man whose tenets of non-violent resistance Ajay does not exactly follow (one cannot be an Amazing Fighting Lawyer and still be a pacifist, after all). But when the clock strikes twelve, he's allowed to kill as many villains as he likes!
4) While Mithun is content just to drive around blowing up motorboats full of left-over cloth mannequins, Ajay zooms through an enormous coal mine (or at least, the same two corridors in a surreal Fischer Price-inspired coal mine set), smashing through gates and blowing up...well, cloth mannequins, of course.
But why does he bother doing all this stuff? Couldn't he be like all the rest of the lawyers, trading legal briefs with his pretty secretary and never, ever, EVER blowing people up? Of course not! Because he's an Amazing Fighting Lawyer, and like the rest of his clan he must fight injustice (via "kung fu") wherever he goes! And there's a heaping load of injustice happening in "Jung," let me tell you.
No, really, let me tell you.
Both Ram (Aditya Pancholi) and his look-alike Billa (Aditya Pancholi) share an interest in trains: Ram drives them and Billa robs them. Unable to get Ram to help the villains rob his own train, the bad guys just go ahead and rob the train anyway, and they not only use Billa to frame Ram (all of the witnesses claim that Ram was responsible for the robbery) but they also tie Ram's pregnant wife to the railway tracks. This doesn't happen much outside of old Republic serials, but thank goodness it happens here, because -- like everything else in this movie -- it's pretty spectacular.
Yes, the wife-with-child-abusing Billa is a bad man, and not just because he woos his girlfriend to the soothing strains of cheesy sax music ("Billa, you crazy," she giggles as he fondles her behind a semi-transparent screen). Billa helped to send an innocent man and his wife to jail, then had the gall to steal gold from the REAL Jungian villain: Chakradhari, who has a hereditary obsession with rape that he shares with his daughter (Rambha, who got thrown in the mud for making a beggar's food even dirtier than it already was, remember) and, I suspect, with his father and his grandfather as well.
Let me take a second to mention something I find uncomfortable about Bollywood films like "Jung." They have a flippant, off-hand interest in the word "rape." I put that word in quotes because it's possible this is a translation issue -- the same way that "sexual harassment" becomes the much less threatening"teasing" in Bollywood subtitles (as in "SLAP! This will teach you to tease girls! PUNCH!"). Maybe when Rambha jokes about "rape" she's really joking about "seduction," which is a very different act. But I doubt it. The people who made "Jung" appear to have been inspired more by Nintendo games than by any sort of social consciousness.
So therein you have the characters, hopelessly entangled: Chakradhari used Billa to frame Ram and Sita. Mithun arrested Ram (twice!). Mithun's brother-in-law -- Ajay -- has fallen in love with Rambha, Chakradhari's rape-obsessed daughter.
"What?!?" you're yelling at me, using that curious combination of exclaimation points and question marks which denotes anger and confusion. "That's it? It doesn't get any more complicated than that? This must be the simplest Bollywood movie on earth!" Well stick this in your sandal and chew on it, bubba: Sita -- who swore on her vermillion AND mangalsutra that she'd get revenge on Chakradhari -- gave birth to a child and escaped from prison, leaving the baby with Laxshmi (Mithun's wife) to care for. Laxshmi -- being the type of wife who throws English words into conversation to embarass and flummox her dumb husband (and deliberately misuses those words, saying "templing" when she means "going to the temple") -- sneaks behind Mithun's back and hires a scared, homeless woman to help her with the baby. And guess who she hired?
Sita! The baby's REAL mother! The woman that Laxshmi's hubby put in jail!
But before your jaw drops and you stop chewing that thing I told you to put in your sandal, here's the final loop in the Great Bollywood Plot Knot: Ajay decides to become Sita's Amazing Fighting Lawyer, raising lots of surprisingly philosophical commentary about how police officers -- Mithun -- are hired to execute the law without question (and quite often slap around men who tease women), while lawyers are supposed to straighten out the facts and interpret the law and do research and slap around men who tease women. Which makes me wonder how "police detectives" fit in...moot, because Mithun is far too stupid in this film to actually do any detective work. He's sort of like the ox that you whack with your stick and say "go," and he goes.
But boy, does he go when his own brother-in-law starts hiding fugitives that he helped arrest in the first place. It's a question of duty and honour and respect for your elders, the sort of thing that sends older relatives into a vengeful tizzy, both in the real world and on celluloid. But this is where "Jung" departs from the real world and flaps off into the realm that I like to call "wacky."
Sita spends half of her time playing with the baby, which she knows is hers because it has an Aaron Neville-like "pre-natal trauma" deformity on its face. Things get awkward when she feels a pressing need to actually breast feed the child, which she presumably was not hired to do. Laxshmi -- already having been through a lot trying to deal with her brother dating Rambha, a woman whose butt is in front of the camera 75% of the time and whose breasts steal the show the other 25% -- releases tension by singing a really sweet duet with Sita called "Ui Amma," a song that isn't subtitled but must be about how scary it is when Mithun Chakraborty jumps around your blanket wearing a clown mask, and you're just a baby who will never amount to anything in life because you have a thing growing on your cheek...a thing that isn't charming or subtle or cute and looks like if you touched it it would start growing on your fingers. But no matter what the song's about it's sweet, like I said. Unfortunately the rest of the songs don't have much going for them...they look nice on screen but they're generic.
When Sita isn't trying to breastfeed her child, she's trying to choke Chakradhari to death. She's made friends with the local hangman, played by a guy who looks like Albert Einstein as he would appear today: dead for over forty years and still clawing at his coffin lid. Albert, like Sita, also has an axe to grind -- or a "neck to hang," if you will -- with Chakradhari: that dasdardly villain tortured Albert's son to death, but it was worth it because he did it by tying the guy to a box-spring mattress and attaching it to a car battery.
Did I mention that the director (T. Rama Rao) is a creative, if extremely demented, sort of guy? I've only seen one of his other films (Beti No. 1), which also contained a fair amount of weird, comedic, WAY over-the-top sped-up violence. If I were going to write a fictional biography of T. Rama Rao's life it would start like this:
|T. RAMA RAO: I'd like to make a movie, but I don't have a movie camera. Maybe I will find one in this alley...
VAGRANT: Psssst! Hey, yaar, you need a movie camera?
TRR: Yes! I plan on making very serious films about social issues. They will be oblique examinations of the human struggle for meaning in the cold universe of a hill station. Sort of like "Wild Strawberries" with ghungroos.
VAGRANT: I will give this movie camera to you for free. Here, take it.
TRR: Wow, why's it free? What's wrong with it?
VAGRANT: It goes at the wrong speed...it's the one that Benny Hill used, and I think it's cursed. Everything filmed with it ends up being surreal and silly.
TRR: Okay, I'll take it! Beggars can't be choosers. Now that I have a camera I can finally make my film about the life of an aspiring Sadhu!
VAGRANT: Look out for that falling piano!
TRR: OUCH! Oh, my head, a piano fell on it! I'm brain-damaged! Instead of that Sadhu thing, I'm going to make a movie with lots a fighting in it! I'm going to shoot a scene where two men ride mine carts for over ten minutes and throw fire at each-other, and maybe they will crash through the same gates over and over again! It will all happen way too fast, with quick cuts and a soundtrack made of echoing screams and explosions and ringing bells, for no reason at all! And I will keep the shutter open so that everything looks blurry and makes the viewer think of ancient rituals involving peyote! Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck!
I'm referring, of course, to the climactic battle at the end of the movie which deserves a Filmfare award for "Weirdest Fight Scene In A Mine Underneath The Replica Of A Dutch Village," with a caveat that the mine has nothing to do with the rest of the film, and neither does the Dutch Village. It's great! The sound editor for the movie also deserves an award for the echoing shrieks and zooming noises as the mine-cart battle rages on. And on. And on. This is the best part of the entire film and well worth it, sort of. I challenge T. Rama Rao to make a 150 minute movie that is just ONE LONG FIGHT SCENE, all done in his unique juvenile style. If nothing else it would keep babies distracted long enough for their parents to get some sleep. How about it, Dinky?
Next to the fight scenes in "Jung," the human beings just aren't that interesting. Mithun and Ajay are caricatures representing "obeying your job description" and "helping the little people," respectively. Ram and Sita ARE the little people, though Sita gets pretty freaky when she starts on her revenge kick. The bad guys are slimy and the good guys are constantly struggling between doing what they're supposed to do and doing what they know is right. Rambha couldn't act her way out of a mud puddle (literally), but I still think she's charming and fun...somebody I'd rather go shopping with than watch in a movie, frankly, though I still say her dancing is super-fine.
Out of everybody, the only performer who actually excels (with the exception of the sound and video editors) is Laxshmi, Mithun's wife. She deserves better and I hope she's already gotten it, though she has the look of somebody resigned to "goofy wife" character roles. When she tucks in her pallav and brandishes her broom, you know she's done it a thousand times before, and will probably do it a thousand more times before she becomes the "quiet but secretly goofy widow."
It takes balls to end a movie with a woman giving her defective child away. It also takes balls to have the final words in the film refer back to a joke that was set up two hours before and was never properly developed, which is similar to what I'm going to do right now: in summary, this movie is for people with a juvenile sense of entertainment...or at least for the "Jung at heart." Oh, ouch.